i"...and i held your hand throughout all of these years. but you still have all of me..."/i

when you stood back to look at it, it had been nothing but two years wasted arguing and sneaking around. but somehow, some unknown way, they'd made it out together. maybe the planets had aligned just right; solar constellations fine tuning themselves and blocking whatever harm would have come. noelle sighed contentedly in the crook of his arm as she stared out the window at the sun just beginning to peek across the horizon. on any given day, any day but this, he would have been up hours ago, running here and there, working out until she was sure he'd collapse from exhaustion, or just simply sitting in his favorite chair with his right ankle resting on his left knee, head cocked to the side and smoking while he thought. today, though, he was snoring next to her as if this had been his routine all along. it felt right; this closeness.

she snuggled against him as he rolled and enveloped her in his strong arms, absorbing his warmth. the minute silence that usually accompanied this movement wore on. he kissed the exposed skin of her neck tenderly.

"mornin'." aaron, still groggy from sleep, curled around her a bit more. the steady rise and fall of his chest against her back was intoxicating; threatening to lure her back to sleep.

noelle rolled onto her stomach to face him. as he brought his hand up to brush stray hairs from her face, she kissed his palm. "i missed you."

"how could you miss me?" a short laugh filled the air around them, comforting and nearly suffocating all at once. "i never left."

"you went to sleep."

"so did you." he stared at her for no particular reason at all, just to take every fine feature in. his fingers were warm and gentle on her face. noelle began to wonder exactly what was running through his head. almost painfully gentle, aaron coaxed her onto her back with simple kisses planted here and there, as if they were candies being tossed out at a parade.

she held his face in her hands. "what's up?"

"nothing." more kisses fluttered across her collarbone. "just enjoying you."

aaron's short words were terribly sentimental, digging a deeper trench through her heart, a deeper well to drown him in. a blush of modesty flooded through her as the sheet was neatly skimmed away from her naked form. eyes blazed trails that long, beautifully worn fingers followed. they'd made it. now, noelle realized, that it was more than making it two years; it was about finally being close enough to touch, close enough (god save the cliches) to make love. it created a peacefulness that she could wallow in, swimming through it like the purest of lakes on a hot summer day.

"i'm glad you're home."

noelle couldn't help but laugh slightly at the absurdity of the comment. she'd been in south carolina for weeks now. two at the very least. and this was the first time he'd mentioned anything about her being home. though, for the first few days, she felt like a guest or even a visitor at a museum since the house was so quiet and immaculately clean of any semblance of life residing within it's archaic walls. but, her presence had seemed to liven the house if by only dirtying it slightly. the prickling of aaron's unshaven face jolted her out of her sweet reverie of the first night here as he nuzzled against her neck.

"what're you doing?"

"licking your ear, you have a problem with it?" even when aaron tried to be quiet, he still resounded like a thunderstorm that shook her to the core. leaning on one arm, he tucked her hair behind her ears, kissed her and mumbled something in a language she couldn't quite place before sitting up and starting his day.

noelle sat up, wrapping the crisp linen sheet around her. "what was that?"

"russian." came the muted response as he closed the bathroom door.

gathering the sheet, she scampered to the bathroom and flung the door open. the hush was audible as she stared at his naked form, slightly hunched as he brushed his teeth. even though she'd just been laying next to the same body shed of its second skin of cotton and denim, it still took her breath away when she was allowed to admire the taut muscle and beautiful scars that had been scattered across his tan skin like stars in the night sky.

"can i help you?" the smirk on his face reached his glittering eyes full of mischeif.

"huh? oh. what'd you say?"

"i said i love you."

"awful long to just be that simple, don't you think?" noelle watched the muscles ripple as he started the shower and stepped into the slowly warming spray. aaron merely stared at her, taunting her from a distance he presumed safe. she could feel the familiar fire rush to her cheeks as he purposefully stretched, giving her roving eyes full access to every exposed inch. she licked her dry lips and trying to avert her gaze; it wasn't until aaron's voice finally reached her ears that she was yanked back into the present.

"hello?" he whistled. "hello, is anyone in there?"

"what? yeah."

"you have no idea what i said, do you?"

dumbly, she shook her head.

he sighed.

she twitched nervously in the doorway, fully aware of her nakedness under the stark white. the water shut off with an abruptness that made her wondre if he was angry for some reason. rivers of water rolled down his body as he reached for a towel. still, she stood in the doorway, unable to turn away nor to find something to do to occupy herself.

he had his back to her. "i've got to run downtown for a little while."

aaron planted a chaste kiss on her cheek as he slid by her and meandered his way to the closet to remove clean clothing from it's dark recesses. minutes ticked by, each marked by the sound of the clock in the hall, as he dressed silently, stealthily, kissed her one last time and exited the room. there was a moment of fullness in the house and as he closed the door-- emptiness.